Fatigue Might Not Mean You're Tired—5 Major Causes and Solutions

Fatigue Might Not Mean You're Tired—5 Major Causes and Solutions
Most people regularly commit to a 120 percent life, stretched beyond their limits. (Rido/Shutterstock)
Kuo-Pin Wu

The busy modern person has much to do and worry about every day. Many of us work long hours and get little sleep. For many, it's even difficult to eat three proper meals a day. Various life pressures exhaust the body and mind, and issues such as insomnia, memory loss, anxiety, fear, and depression wear more and more people down.

Fatigue haunts us.

Many people think that getting more sleep and rest is the answer to all of these ills, but actually, this isn't the answer to fatigue, as we learned from Dr. Wu Kuo-Pin, director of Taiwan Hsinyitang Chinese Medicine Clinic.

But isn't sleep the cure-all we were led to believe?

"There are many causes of fatigue. We need to understand which type of fatigue we have so that we can prescribe the right remedy to get the best results," Wu said.

Physiological Fatigue

Physiological fatigue is physical fatigue, which is caused by the body being overworked and unable to properly handle the metabolites produced by the hard work.

"The more waste accumulated in the body, the more muscle soreness," Wu said. "The lack of adequate nutrient supply to the tissues and organs will lead to weakness and tiredness of the limbs."

This kind of physical fatigue is often an occupational disease, which may be caused by maintaining a certain posture or doing a certain kind of action for a long time, the doctor explained.

"Therefore, in order to improve physiological fatigue, we should pay attention to whether there are deviations or excesses in posture or movement, and do some stretching exercises to loosen up and to prevent and relieve physiological fatigue."

Mental Fatigue

The main cause of mental fatigue is prolonged mental stress. Rest or sleep alone isn't sufficient to relieve this type of fatigue.

"It requires holistic solutions of both body and mind to release the pressure or suppressed emotions," Wu said. That's why many people seek out therapists.

"In other words, we must take the weight off our mind and thoroughly solve and let go of the disturbance in order to truly eliminate mental fatigue and restore health."

Brain Fatigue

Brain fatigue is due to long hours of thinking or focusing on something, which generates the feeling of burnout.

"Excessive use of the brain will cause the brain to consume a lot of oxygen, resulting in a lack of oxygen supply to the brain. Thus, carbon dioxide can not be metabolized smoothly, and brain fatigue will occur, accompanied sometimes by dizziness, headache, nausea, memory loss, and other symptoms," Wu said.

In these cases, sometimes the simple solution of breathing exercises can yield great results.

"When this fatigue occurs, you can stand up and do chest-expanding and deep breathing exercises to inhale a large amount of oxygen into the lungs," Wu said.

"Then move the cervical spine, and comb the hair so that the blood quickly and smoothly flows toward the brain, eliminating the brain fatigue."

But these are short-term and immediate remedies, not long-lasting ones.

"However, the best way is to readjust the pace of life, review your workload and rest time, and strike a balance between the two," Wu said.

Subjective Fatigue

Subjective fatigue can be described as "exhaustion," a state of feeling powerless about yourself or anything else. Subjective fatigue is usually caused by personal emotions.

"The common situation is that you are very committed to your work over a period of time, but that your efforts are not rewarded or recognized. After a period of time, your enthusiasm and motivation gradually wear off," Wu said. This differs from mental fatigue which may have to do more with being overwhelmed, as subjective fatigue results in more of a loss of motivation rather than an anxious state.

"It is necessary to rekindle the enthusiasm. Try to shift part of your attention to other activities, or change your work style and learning methods," Wu said, adding that it's a time for learning the importance of "letting go" of things.

"Do not care too much about what others may think of you, and follow your own way of life in order to truly get rid of this pain."

Fatigue Caused by an Imbalanced Diet

This fatigue is caused by a long-term preference for a certain type of food or not eating a certain type of food, resulting in nutritional imbalance and health problems. Large percentages of Americans today have nutritional deficiencies in many essential minerals and vitamins.

Wu said explained an ancient view of a balanced diet.

"An ancient Chinese medical book—'Huangdi Neijing,' which translates to 'The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine'—talks about the importance of a balanced diet and how to combine different types of food in a balanced way."

The book says, "The five grains are the main sources for growth; the five fruits provide complementary nourishment; the five livestock are the main sources of energy; and the five vegetables are the main sources of supplement. The intake of them combined in a balanced way will help the body stay healthy and energetic."

Modern research has also shown that variety is essential to a healthy gut microbiome.

"Huangdi Neijing embodies ancient Chinese wisdom and understanding of the universe and its relationship with the human being. It is the most important ancient text in Chinese medicine as well as a major book of Daoist theory and lifestyle," Wu said.

"Following ancient Chinese wisdom, we need to eat a balanced diet according to each individual’s physique to relieve fatigue and to stay healthy."

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